Dependable, cool‐climate loving cabbage can be grown almost year ‘round in the Pacific Northwest. Early varieties are the tastiest but store poorly. Mid season varieties keep better. Late varieties are the largest, best for sauerkraut and store the best. Cabbage is a brassica and should be planted in an area that has not grown other brassicas (i.e.‐broccoli, kale) for at least a year.
Cabbage does best in full sun (at least six hours of direct sun). It thrives in rich well drained soil with a pH between 6.0‐7.5. Mix in a shovel full of composted manure, granular all purpose fertilizer and lime to each planting hole.
Planting cabbage from starts usually yields greater success than direct seeding. You can start seeds for early varieties indoors under lights 6‐8 weeks before the last frost. In Portland the window is mid February through March. Harden off seedlings to outdoor temperatures by setting them in a cold frame for a week before planting. If you do not have a cold frame, set seedlings outdoors in the day and indoors at night for a week before planting.
Prepare planting area as described above in the site requirements section. Transplants can go into the garden as early as two weeks before the last frost date (April 15th in Portland). Plant seedlings 1‐2’ apart in rows 2’ apart, and water in with liquid seaweed or B1. Cover your new planting with floating row cover to prevent attacks from cabbage loopers, aphids and other chewing insects that love cabbage.
Cabbage can be directly sown in your garden April through July in the Portland area. Be sure to amend planting area with 4” of composted manure before sowing seeds. Plant seeds 1⁄4” deep in rows 24‐36” apart. Seedlings should be thinned 18‐24” apart when they have at least two true leaves.
Seeds for a fall harvest should be started in flats in July and early August. Seedlings can go in the ground once they have 2‐3 sets of true leaves. Cabbage is very sensitive to heat, so plant in the shade of larger summer crops such as cucumbers or potatoes. Transplants can go in the ground through the end of August.
How much to water your plants will require depends on the soil and weather. Water new transplants daily, or when the top 2” of the soil is dry. Once they reach 12” cabbage need average, evenly moist soil. Avoid overhead irrigation, instead use drip or flood irrigation or hand watering. Mulch around cabbage to retain soil moisture.
Cabbage is a heavy feeder and benefits from a side dressing of composted manure or all purpose granular fertilizer two weeks after transplanting. Repeat side dressing once a month for the next two months.
Harvest early varieties as soon as they are well‐formed and to their mature size. Cut the head at ground level as soon as it feels firm. Gently remove the loose wrapper leaves to avoid bruising. Fall varieties can hold in the garden for several months without splitting. Early types will store refrigerated 1‐2 months. Late storage types can keep up to 6 months in the refrigerator or root cellar.
Many problems that can occur with cabbage are due to weather and cultural conditions. Plants will split in reaction to hot weather and drought. Correct planting time, moderate and consistent moisture, soil amending, and row covers are all strategies to improve growing conditions.